Tom Smart, Deseret News
Junior Tui'one strips Ute QB turned receiver DeVonte Christopher.

Brian Johnson believes he's found the secret to success for Utah's offense.

"We've got to find a way to play with confidence. When we play with confidence we are a really, really good offense and have a chance to be great," Johnson said. "Guys have got to find their confidence."

They did on Tuesday. After several subpar showings in camp, the offense experienced a resurgence of sorts.

"They executed very well. A big improvement over the last few days," said head coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that the offense's woes involved a combination of things and not just one particular aspect.

"I think the key today was to have some confidence and we protected. You've got to do those two things," Whittingham said. "If you play with confidence and protect the quarterback you've got a chance."

The offense, he continued, did a better job of doing so across the board. So much so, in fact, that Whittingham said the offense in its entirety were the standout performers in practice.

"We needed to see that happen," he explained. "We need to see it continue to happen."

The next opportunity is a scrimmage this morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"We want to come out, execute, play with some confidence and play well ... in the scrimmage," said Johnson, who downplayed the offense's shortcomings in the previous two scrimmages. "Any time you have a scrimmage you have to take everything with a grain of salt."

The No. 1 offense, he added, has played well in limited action — once uniting for an eight-play drive.

Whittingham said that the final scrimmage will be a lot like the one last Saturday — consisting of just 60 plays or so with a lot of special-teams work. The less-experienced ones and primary backups will see most of the action. It'll most likely be Utah's final live action before the Aug. 30 season opener at Michigan.

POSITION SWITCH: Quarterback DeVonte Christopher, a true freshman, has volunteered to use his athleticism at wide receiver this season. He caught a touchdown pass in a 7-on-7 situation Monday and spent Tuesday's practice with the receivers as well.

"I'm not necessarily moving to receiver. But I'm just trying to get on the field this season and help the team out," Christopher said. "Next year I'll be back at quarterback, as soon as the season is over. I'm just trying to help out the team in any way I can. If it's at receiver, then I'll be a receiver."

It's a scenario similar to his experience in high school. He saw varsity time as a receiver during his sophomore year before becoming the starting quarterback in his final two seasons.

"It's a whole different mind-set," he said, while noting receiver is an easier position to play.

Even so, it's not something Christopher wants to do on a long-term basis.

"The bottom line is I'm still a QB," he said.

While noting that Christopher is "doing a nice job a receiver" and will stay there for at least the short term, Whittingham acknowledged that there's a "very strong possibility" that the former Las Vegas prep star will be in the receiving corps for the Michigan game.

"We'll see how he progresses," Whittingham said.

So far, so good according to Johnson.

"He's a master athlete. He catches the ball really well," Johnson said. "He has great hands, and I think he'll be a huge asset to us."

NO KEY, YET: Christopher's temporary position switch should ease Utah's frustration when it comes to highly touted receiver Aiona Key.

The junior college transfer is waiting for a junior college grade to be posted before reporting for camp.

Whittingham said the situation is now "way, way, way in the back of my mind." The delay may have cost Key a chance to contribute in the opener.

"He will probably not be a factor in the Michigan game," Whittingham said. "I don't see that happening."


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com